A three-judge Bench of the Gujarat High Court, headed by Chief Justice K.S. Radhakrishnan, on Monday began the hearing on the public interest litigation petition challenging the constitutionality and validity of the State government’s notification banning the publication, sale, and distribution of Jaswant Singh’s book 'Jinnah: India, Partition, Independence', in Gujarat.

Justices Akil Qureshi and K.M. Thakkar were the two other members of the bench to hear the PIL petition filed by two eminent writers in the State, Prakash Shah, a veteran freelance journalist, and Manishi Jani, president of the Gujarati Writers’ Association.

The advocate for the petitioners, Anand Yagnik, told the court that all the three sections of the Criminal Procedure Code, section 95 and sections 153 (A) and (B) used for banning the book, could be applied only in cases of any publication instigating communal violence or social turmoil of violent nature, and were not applicable in the case of Mr. Singh’s book.

He said there could be a few paragraphs in the book which could have been objectionable on some grounds or the other, but banning the entire book was a violation of the constitutional rights of the citizens.

Mr. Yagnik said it was clear that the book was banned without anyone in the government going through it properly, as it was released on August 17 and the ban imposed on it hastily within 48 hours.

The government pleader, Tushar Mehta, countered the petitioners’ arguments, claiming that it was not possible for the government to mention all the grounds of issuing the ban order in the notification itself, as it would have amounted to publicising the same objectionable references in the book for which it had been banned.

Mr. Mehta said if permitted by the court, the government was prepared to file a separate affidavit detailing the objectionable references which provided the grounds for its ban.

Sensing that the court might not be inclined to validate the government’s earlier notification, Mr. Mehta also told the court that the government could issue another notification with more details about the objectionable references to justify the ban.

The court, however, refused to wait either for his fresh affidavit or a new notification to postpone the hearing on the PIL petition, and decided to continue the hearing on it after 2 p.m. on Tuesday, apparently to wait for the outcome of Mr. Singh’s petition in the Supreme Court on the same issue, scheduled to come up for hearing on Tuesday.

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